Revocation of Casino License Would Punish 88% of (Non-Culpable) Owners

Friday, March 9, 2018

“Wynn Boston Harbor,” the name of the Las Vegas-style casino under construction now in Everett, is sinking faster than a gambling addict’s spirits.

Wynn Resorts founder Steve Wynn has been revealed as an alleged abuser of women and our governor and attorney general say the casino cannot possibly bear his name.  Countless women no doubt share that view with Governor Baker and AG Healey.
But if all Wynn Resorts had to do now was devise a new casino moniker, the folks running the show would be sitting prettier than a high roller in a penthouse suite.

With the Massachusetts Gaming Commission trying to determine if persons in the company hierarchy other than Wynn helped conceal Wynn’s reputed history of sexual misdeeds in its license application, Wynn Resorts could forfeit its right to do business here.
“A central question,” Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby has said, “is what did the (Wynn Resorts) board of directors and staff know, and when did they know it, about the settlement (with Wynn’s woman accuser) and the associated allegations.  That’s a critical point for us and the public of Massachusetts to know ASAP.”

Healy says, “I’m not convinced the company should have a license at all.”
Elaine Driscoll, gaming commission spokesperson, says, “Currently, all options are on the table.”

The tales of sexual abuse swirling around Wynn are being treated, as they should, with utmost seriousness.   Wynn Resorts, a publicly traded company, did the right thing in bouncing him.
License revocation by the state of Massachusetts is a whole other matter.

As bad and as reprehensible as Wynn’s behavior may have been, I don’t see how the commission can justify revoking his former company’s license at this advanced point in the development of the casino.  This betting mecca on the Mystic is on schedule to open in mid-2019. 
First, there’s the issue of ownership. Wynn holds only 12% of the stock in Wynn Resorts.  Punishing the many who own 88% because of the alleged actions of the one who owns 12% would not be fair to the 88%.  (It would be fair to compel Wynn to liquidate his stake in the company so that he can no longer profit from it, but that's a matter for the company and securities regulators to decide.)

Secondly, although Wynn was clearly in the wrong not to inform the gaming commission of his dealings with women who had accused him of abuse, too much has transpired in the development of the casino, too much money has been expended, too many lives have changed courses, and too many interlocking, far-reaching moves have been made since the casino was licensed in 2014 to turn the project on its head now. 
After years of planning, strategizing, investing, site preparation and building, we’re seeing the casino as the amazing project it was destined to be when Wynn Resorts committed to spending $2.4 billion dollars on it.  There’s never been anything like it on this scale in Massachusetts, and I say that as someone who never gambles and will set foot in the casino just once to satisfy my curiosity as to its excesses and spectacles.  We’re also seeing that Wynn, despite having been the project’s public face and its most persuasive salesman, was just one component of this complex, multi-year undertaking. 

By 2014, the project had achieved a life and a force all its own.  Had Wynn, who is 76, died in 2016, it would have gone on without him.  So should it now that he’s been dishonorably discharged.
Thirdly, if the commission takes back the Wynn Resorts license, forcing the company to sell the unfinished casino, what you’ll have is a fire sale.  In distress, the company would never get the price it would if it were selling an up-and-running casino at a time of its choosing.   Post-fire sale, can anyone doubt that Wynn Resorts would sue the Commonwealth for hundreds of millions in lost profits and damages?  Company shareholders would demand it.  One hell of a lawsuit it would be. If the state lost, we the taxpayers would be on the hook. Talk about a bad gamble.

I end with a question on requiring Wynn Resorts to ditch the “Wynn Boston Harbor” name: Is it the state’s business to tell businesses what to call themselves?
If Wynn Resorts makes the judgment that keeping Wynn’s name on its Massachusetts casino (and others) is good for business – and who’s to say it might not be, given we’re talking about enterprises founded on a vice and sustained by delusion and human weakness – I don’t believe the state has the right to deprive the company of its preferred label. (Remember, we’re living in Trump’s world now. Presidents can pay off porn stars and no one really cares.) 

If Wynn Resorts is willing to risk offending women and hurting its bottom line with a controversial name choice, who are we, the public in whose name our government acts, to say they can’t?    



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